An Alabama police officer has been arrested after video emerged of him slamming an unarmed man to the ground after repeatedly trying to question him, law enforcement officials said.
Officer Eric Parker of the Madison Police Department in northern Alabama turned himself in to the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday, according to Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey. He faces charges of assault in the third degree, Muncey said.
An internal use-of-force investigation by Madison police into the Feb. 6 incident found that Parker’s actions “did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department,” Muncey said in a news release.
Parker has been placed on administrative leave, and Muncey said he has recommended he be fired. The FBI has also opened an inquiry into the incident, Muncey said.
According to police, Parker and a trainee, Andrew Slaughter, responded to a call on a residential street the morning of Feb. 6 after a report of a “suspicious person” walking in the neighborhood.
The man, 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, had just arrived from India a few days before to visit his son and his son’s family, including a 17-month-old grandson, his family said.
Video released this week by police shows the officers approach Patel, asking him repeatedly where he was going and what he was doing in the neighborhood. Patel, who according to family speaks limited English, responded: “India,” and “no English.”
“He doesn’t speak a lick of English,” one of the officers can be heard saying on the video, before proceeding to question Patel.
According to an initial news release about the incident from police, Parker and Slaughter attempted to pat Patel down, but he pulled away and began to put his hands into his pockets.
“Do not jerk away from me again,” one of the officers says, “or I’m going to put you on this ground. Do you understand?”
When Patel appeared to pull away again, the video shows, the officer threw him to the ground. He later appeared unable to walk or stand after officers handcuffed him.
An excessive-force lawsuit filed against the city of Madison and the two officers in federal court Thursday claims the incident caused “significant trauma to Patel’s cervical spine” and has left him “partially paralyzed.”
“Patel had nothing in his pants except for a green patterned handkerchief that was later used by officers to wipe blood from Patel’s face,” the suit says, calling the search “unnecessary and illegal.”
The suit alleges illegal search and seizure, excessive force, false arrest and assault.
“I sincerely apologize to Mr. Patel, his family and our community,” Muncey said during a news conference announcing Parker’s arrest. “Our desire is to exceed everyone’s expectations.”
Parker is the second police officer this week to face criminal charges in a high-profile excessive-force case, as such issues continue to command attention nationwide.
On Tuesday, prosecutors announced the indictment of New York Police Officer Peter Liang on charges related to the accidental shooting death in November of Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old unarmed black man, in the darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.
According to prosecutors, Liang was walking down the stairway with his flashlight in his right hand and his gun in his left, his finger on the trigger instead of on the side, as he had been trained.
As Gurley lay dying, prosecutors said, Liang failed to administer CPR and told his partner, “I’m going to be fired.”
Liang pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and official misconduct.
If convicted, Liang could face 15 years in prison.
For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc